Riga - the Capital of Latvia

Spectacular ancient old town, Art Nuevo architecture, historical monuments, culture heritage, parks,  leisure centres, boat trips in Daugava and in the Baltic sea, adventure nightlife, all year festivals – these are just few words to describe the lively Riga.

The Main Facts

Riga is the largest city not just in Latvia, but also in the Baltic countries. According to 2010 data, Riga`s approximate population was 709.145 inhabitants. The population contains of 42,3% Latvians, 41,3% Russians, 4,3%  Belarusians, 3,9% Ukrainians and 8,2% of other nationalities. The area of Riga is about 300 sq.km.


There are two different stories of beggining of Riga city history. The one is more realistic, but the other one perhaps is much more often told. The first one tells that the history of Riga and the whole urbanisation began in 1201 year, when the first Prince-Bishop of Livonia Albert von Buxhovden moved his residence to Riga. Riga became the strongest city in the whole southern coast!

The second story tells that Riga was built near the hoot, where a very huge man named Kristaps (Christopher) lived. Kristaps was the ferryman and had earned money carrying people from one to other bank of Daugava River. One night the boy came to him. He was strongly asking Kristap to take him to the other side of the river. There was a big storm outsight, but Kristap could not resist a boy’s plea. On the halfway across the river, the boy started becoming heavier and heavier with each step. With all his strengths, Kristap managed to get the boy to the other shore of the river. Then it appeared that the boy was Christ a Child and Kristap was carrying him together with all sins of the world. After this, as a thanksgiving, Kristap received a treasure box.  In the end of his life, Kristap had a lot of money. He decided to give all the money to build a city near his hoot. The city was named Riga.

However, later Riga’s history marks 1202 year. In this year, Riga’s Bishop Albert initiates  foundation of Order of Sward. Orders` main aim was to spread Christianity in ethnic north Ugric and Baltic (Liv, Estonian) lands. A year after the Battle of Shaulen (Saules) in 1236 year, the Order of Sward incorporated with Teutonic Knights. The new Order called itself Livonia.

Next, very important date to Riga was 1282 year. In this year the city became a member of economic alliance of trading cities - The Hanseatic League. Riga was trading with Eastern and Western Europe. The main partners were Lubeck and Dutch traders.  In the 14’th century Riga had mainly exported wax and fur, later – flax and hemp. From Western countries through Riga port the country was importing fabrics, cloths, salt, herring, metal, jewellery, wines. Riga became an important trading centre. Later, in the 16’th century, Hansa collapsed, but this membership made a vast influence to Riga’s economical and political stability.

In 1561 year Livonia collapsed and Riga had 20 years of freedom.  In year 1582 Riga sweared confidence to Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. Later (1621-1709) under control of Sweden government, Riga became the second largest city in Sweden with its self-governmental autonomy.

In 1709 the Great Northern War broke out.  Russian Tsar Peter I surrounded Riga. After nine month of struggle, Riga had to give up. Riga felt under authorities of Russian Empire until the I World War. Until the Nistadas Peace Agreement in 1721 year, Riga’s trade was surviving tough times. Nevertheless, in Russian Empire Riga became strong and important port city and the third biggest city in an Empire.

During Napoleon invasion to Russian Empire in year 1812, Riga had to withhold Napoleons army attack. As prevention, there the whole Riga`s outskirt was torched.

Dissatisfaction regarding Russian regime has begun in 1905 year, but just the war could stop it. In 1914 year Germans declared the war on Russia. In the World War I Riga city was the front line. Riga and the whole country suffered much loss – evacuated people, destroyed industry. Germans had won the WWI and Latvia for the first time got back its independence in 1918 18th of November.

The 1940-1949 year was like a horror to Riga. Firstly, in 1940 Riga was attacked by Soviet tanks. Many citizens were killed, thousand departed, the city itself - destroyed. In 1941 Germans came back again with new power. Riga then felt a release, butnot for a long time, only until the Jewish holocaust began.  Stalin terror returned in 1944 year. Riga’s demographic composition was changed. Strong immigration of people from Soviet Union, and cruel deportation of Latvians to Siberia and Kazakhstan (the biggest one in 1949 year) were started. In WW II Latvia lost its independence and came under Soviet Union power. After the WW II Riga had to be restored and built on its feeds. In Soviet Union Riga was one of the largest centers because of new industries, enterprises, constructions, railway junction, harbour.  Awakening began in 1987 year and already in 1991 11th of November Latvia got back its independence.

Riga nowadays

Today Riga is an independent, easy reachable, spectacular, industrially developed, modern city. Riga has the largest international airport in Baltic’s. It can be easy reached by taxi, car or public transport. Train and bus stations are in the center of the city and are near to each other - easy reachable by foot. There is a daily passenger ferry service between Riga and Stockholm, port is just around 7 min. by car from stations.

Long and great history of Riga left a rich cultural and historical heritage. Riga survived the WW I and WW II, but still managed to restore and keep its remarkable old town. In 1997 year, Riga’s old town was inscribed into UNESCO World Heritage List. For those who desire to fall into history of Riga deeper, visit National History museum, Museum of Occupation of Latvia, Ethnographic Open Air Museum.

In Riga there is a great number of sightseeing places: Spectacular Riga’s Art Nuevo architecture that mainly concentrates in Elizabetes, Alberta, Strelnieku streets; Ensemble of ancient, wooden and modern architecture; High towers of churches – the highest one is Saint Peter’s Church tower – 123 m.; Small and Big guilds – that is important to the city since 13th century; Peitva Shul – the only Jewish synagogue which survived Nazi period; National Opera, National theatre, Riga’s Art Gallery; The Freedom Monument (locally called Milda) symbol of anti-Soviet resistance and monument for soldiers killed during the Latvian Independence war; Beautiful bridges, the oldest of which is the Railway Bridge; Unusual TV and Radio tower – the third highest TV tower in Europe; The building of Academy of Sciences – a gift to Latvian people from the other Soviet republics; Riga’s central market, which is placed in converted Zeppelins hangars; and so on and so on. There are many objects in Riga which will attract your attention and curiosity. For time savers – use city tour services.  For those who want to “jump” city roofs holding a glass of champagne – there is a bar on the top floor of Reval hotel opened.

In summer many Riga`s old town cafes place their tables outside. The main squares, where people meet to have a snack or a drink, are Livu and Doma squares.  All year round Riga`s nightlife is alive – bars, pubs, clubs are always waiting for clients. Riga is attracting people from all over the world.

Riga Medical Tourism

Latvia has set out to become a strong health tourism provider in the region since it has the recourses and the competitive edge due to lower taxes, labour cost and overall state of economy compared with the Western countries.

Most often out of all Latvia's cities people consider going for surgery abroad in Riga since as the capital of Latvia it plays the major role in the strategy promoting public welfare.

Usually people consider plastic surgery in Riga, also they go for dental and orthopaedic treatment. Cost of having a surgery in Latvia and quality comes in step thus opening opportunities for patients to lift the burden of medical cost.

Javascript is required to view this map.